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Scientific Challenges of Kimchi Fermentation

The World Institute of Kimchi (WiKim) announced the identification of the origin of lactic acid bacteria involved in the fermentation of kimchi and its characteristics of fermentation depending on the strain of lactic acid bacteria.

Traditional Korean fermented vegetable, known as kimchi, is fermented by lactic acid bacteria derived from raw ingredients, such as cabbage, garlic, ginger, and red pepper. During fermentation, lactic acid bacteria produce various metabolites in response to the type of ingredients and storage temperature. These metabolites will then determine the flavour and quality of kimchi.

Controlling the optimal conditions for the fermentation process remains a scientific and industrial challenge. The raw ingredients for kimchi have been recognized as one of the important environmental factors influencing the process. Few studies have shown the origin of lactic acid bacteria responsible for kimchi fermentation.

WiKim’s Microbiology and Functionality Research Group led by Dr Roh Seong Woon analysed the origin of lactic acid bacteria that directly affects the fermentation of kimchi through multi-omics analysis. The team selectively sterilized four ingredients for kimchi, namely cabbage garlic, ginger, and red pepper.

Using multi-omics, it will provide a holistic and integrated analysis of various data sets at different molecular levels. This study is accompanied by metataxonomic and meta-metabolomic analysis.

Results showed that fermentation was carried out by lactic acid bacteria from cabbage and garlic. It was also found that the strains of in the genus Leuconostoc, Weissella, and Lactobacillus formed dominant communities were cabbage-derived. Microorganisms that were garlic-derived were the strains Leuconostoc and Weissella These lactic acid bacteria were also confirmed to produce metabolites, such as mannitol and lactic acid.

The team was successful in isolating three major fermentative microbes involve in kimchi fermentation which are ingredient-specific. These three are; Leuconostoc gelidumWeissella koreensis, and Lactobacillus sakei.

WiKim’s Acting Director Dr. Choi, Hak-Jong remarked, “We’ve successfully figured out scientific grounds for the fermentation of kimchi by tracing the origin of lactic acid bacteria involved in the fermentation. This will surely give us an opportunity to strengthen the status of South Korea as the origin of kimchi.” [APBN]